Low Cost Fine Dining in France

We often eat out during the summer months when we are on our boat in the Netherlands. Dutch pavement cafes are popular in tourist destinations such as Leiden where we moor our cruiser. A meal out is an opportunity to use the restaurant’s free WiFi to update our phones, tablets and laptops, watch one of the happiest nations on Earth at play, and gain a few pounds. As well as being among the most cheerful races on the planet, the Dutch are physically one of the biggest. They eat BIG portions.

Here in wintertime France, a meal out is a very different experience. Because of the weather, eating indoors is a necessity. So is the ability to hold a conversation. The French have this old-fashioned notion that meals out are an opportunity to talk, to laugh, to discuss and debate. Much to my dismay, and Cynthia’s delight, we’ve discovered that free WiFi isn’t popular in rural restaurants, bars and cafes. While we eat, we have to follow our fellow French diners’ leads, leave our smartphones in bags and pockets, and talk.

Peyriac-de-Mer has four restaurants. Finding one open in the depths of winter is a hit or miss affair. We’ve eaten at the Pizzeria and tried to eat at the creperie but couldn’t because they were out of gas. Our favourite, the restaurant we keep returning to, is O Vieux Tonneau, ‘O Old Barrels’.

O Vieux Tonneau Peyriac-de-Mer. Local artwork on the bar wall

O Vieux Tonneau Peyriac-de-Mer. Local artwork on the bar wall

O Vieux Tonneau only has twenty-six seats in their restaurant area but they’re usually full between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. when France stops for lunch. My limited French is aided by Google Translate. The restaurant offers neither free WiFi nor a signal for my phone, so I’m usually flying in the dark at this restaurant if Cynthia can’t help me out. This is always a little worrying given the French fondness for cooking and eating strange body parts. Sausages made with wild boar intestines is a menu item we now know to stay away from.

The restaurant offers a value for money menu du jour. It’s a set meal of the day for €15 (£13.23) and includes a starter, main course and a dessert. In some restaurants, wine and coffee are also included.

After a lengthy lunch, and the novel experience of holding a conversation while we eat, at least for me anyway, a good walk in the rocky hills above the village is the perfect solution for burning off our culinary excess.

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